Paris Air Show

FAA wants to replace Jet-A with synthetics

 - June 19, 2007, 11:58 PM

The Federal Aviation Administration is to leverage the U.S. Air Force’s experience with synthetic fuel, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said here on Tuesday during a press conference. Under the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), the FAA is studying solutions to replace today’s Jet-A1 kerosene. Looked for are fuels with smaller carbon dioxide (CO2) footprints. The results of two studies are due this September.

The USAF has been for a few months testing a 50/50 blend of conventional and synthetic fuel on a B-52 bomber and a C-17 military transport. This is mainly about securing a critical resource. Cost has been a factor, too. “Every time the oil barrel goes up $10, the Air Force pays another $600 million per year,” Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne said at the conference. The environment has been taken into account–the Air Force will buy only synthetic fuel from those companies with CO2 capture programs.

The C-17 should be qualified for the blend by year-end. Wynne hopes to have the entire Air Force fleet–including fighters–qualified by 2010. The synthetic liquid fuel the Air Force uses is made from natural gas.
The FAA now wants to have the Air Force’s input into its own studies. “We will also explore biofuels,” Blakey told Aviation International News. A tricky part of the job will be to compile data. “Let’s be sure we are comparing apples to apples,” she said. One solution will then be picked.

The first study the FAA is conducting is about feasibility, cost, barriers and technical issues. The second one focuses on environmental benefits. “Airlines have huge incentives to switch to an alternative fuel but this needs to be a drop-in–they cannot afford changes on in-service engines,” Blakey insisted.